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'The ultimate team player' Stephen Hiney calls it a day for the Dubs

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Stephen Hiney has retired from inter-county hurling

Stephen Hiney has retired from inter-county hurling

Injured Dublin players Conal Keaney, left, Stephen Hiney, centre, and corner forward David O'Callaghan make their way from the field after the game. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Tipperary v Dublin, Croke Park,

Injured Dublin players Conal Keaney, left, Stephen Hiney, centre, and corner forward David O'Callaghan make their way from the field after the game. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Tipperary v Dublin, Croke Park,

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Stephen Hiney has retired from inter-county hurling

"THE ultimate team player," according to Anthony Daly. "One of our go-to guys in the heat of championship battle," recalled Liam Hogan. These are just two of the tributes paid to Stephen Hiney - who announced his inter-county retirement today - from two of the managers who knew him best.

Hiney was already Sky Blue skipper when Daly arrived, in November 2008, to breathe new life into Dublin hurling ... the Clareman spotted his leadership qualities and kept him there.

Hogan was Ballyboden St Enda's manager during the southside club's five-in-a-row Dublin SHC pomp ... Hiney would always "stand up and be counted when we were in trouble."

The Herald spoke to Hiney's two erstwhile bosses today, and it was immediately apparent how highly they rated the player as a team player and as a leader of men.

Yet his retirement doesn't come as a massive shock. He is 31 - far from scrapheap material - but he's been on the inter-county treadmill for 13 years; he has a demanding work schedule; while Dublin are also entering a new chapter, Daly having departed the managerial hotseat to be replaced by the incoming Ger Cunningham.

"It has been a great honour and privilege to have represented my county at senior level over the past 13 years. This is not a decision I have arrived at lightly. However, I believe the time is right," he said in a statement today.

He went on: "Although we never managed to make the big day in September, Dublin hurling has changed dramatically from when I first joined the team. It would have been hard to imagine Dublin winning Leinster championship and National League titles 13 years ago.

"The Leinster championship win (in 2013) was definitely the highlight of my career. I was also lucky enough to have captained the team for a number of seasons, which was a huge honour for me."

Hiney's statement referenced the "highs and lows" he experienced in his career and also some "serious injuries" shipped along the way, without detailing the various traumas.

In truth, others could have buckled long before now. Hiney was 15 when told he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. When he was 22, he was told he had only a "slim chance" of ever playing hurling again after an eye test revealed that his retina had come close to fully detaching.

That career-threatening problem was corrected ... but several years later, major reconstructive knee surgery was required after he ruptured his cruciate and lateral ligaments during a league match away to Wexford in March 2011.

He consequently missed the opportunity to skipper Dublin to that historic National League final win over Kilkenny; it would be 14 months before he got back playing. By now Johnny McCaffrey had assumed the armband but, as Daly remarked: "He was the leader in lots of ways in the group."

BRILLIANT

Hiney thanked the "brilliant medical staff and backroom teams" who always enabled him to resume playing, along with everyone who "made it possible for me to play at this level for so long. Most importantly, I'd like to thank my wife Elaine and my family who have supported me from the very beginning." He also thanked Ballyboden for their support in his development as a player; and all the Dublin management and backroom teams he worked under.

He added a "special mention to Anthony Daly and his management team, with whom we experienced our greatest success. Without Anthony's passion and drive, I'm sure we would not have experienced the success we did."

In conclusion, while wishing Ger Cunningham and his now-former teammates "even more success", Hiney concluded: "I have played with an amazing bunch of lads over the years, many of whom I regard as my closest friends."


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